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I welcome students readers to this blog. However, be aware that, although I do not use anyone's actual name, the descriptions of behaviors and conversations are not disguised. This is a space in which I may rant, vent, and otherwise express responses that I would do my best to mask or at least tone down in professional interactions with students. This is my personal, gloves off, no holds barred, direct from the gut expression of what it feels like to do my job. If you think you might be hurt or offended or upset by that, read no further. The person I'm ranting about could be you.


Hi! And you are...?

My readership has suddenly blossomed, which is a lovely development--but I don't know who is reading the blog, how you found it, and why you find it interesting. I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to use the "comment" box at the end of any particular post to let me know what brought you to this page--and what keeps you coming back for more (if you do).

Not you, Barry. You already told me--and thanks!






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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Really done

I got in later than I intended, spent longer at the doctor than I expected, got less done than I hoped--but the maintenance staff are champing at the bit to get in here and shampoo the rugs and wax the floors, and quite honestly, I'm not in the mood to hang out here for another hour and a half. I did hold them off while I met with the student who was asking for an incomplete: I crunched the numbers several different ways, but because his first three papers were all very late, the grade penalties on them were deep enough that even if I'd given him time to make up missing homework, he still wouldn't have gotten the grade he was hoping for--or could have earned, if he'd just met the deadlines. I feel bad for him: he may lose his financial aid, though I told him he should fight to keep it, and that I'd be happy to endorse any petition he might need to put together to have it reinstated. But one of the awful things about this career is that I'm often in the position of teaching young people very painful life lessons, not about their work but about being responsible, and the consequences when one is not.

But as of now, there is no real reason for me to stay. I'm not needed to do anything for contract signing (all I had to do was get a sign-up going for desk copies of textbooks and promise to deliver said copies to mailboxes by the end of this week). I could noodle around with all the bits of flotsam I had intended to clear up, but nah. It was so nice to lounge around the apartment this morning while it rained monsoons outside and my car was getting routine check-ups (like me) that I think I'll do more of the same this evening. Tomorrow I'll be back here at 10 a.m. to work on scheduling; then there's a little get-together at a local restaurant prior to commencement tomorrow evening. I will refrain from throwing rotten eggs at the Axe-man, the Supreme Ruler (he thinks); I'll take a good book to read, as usual (commencement exercises are exercises primarily in stultifying boredom). I'm enjoying the hell out of Larry McMurtry's Sin Killer, as I take a break from Jonathan Franzen's Freedoms, which is brilliant but painful. So I'm interspersing a chunk of Franzen with froth of various sorts. I'm not even sure I'll go to dance tonight, though I've been all set to do it. I can feel the post-partum blues starting to kick in: dancing would probably elevate my mood some, at least temporarily, but it's hard to pull together the social face--and to figure out what to do with myself in the intervening time (dance class isn't until 7:30). Well, we'll see (that mantra again). Right now, the only think I know for sure is that I want to get the hell out of this office and off campus.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Going home

I'm sure there is more I should try to get done today, but I'm going to have to be around tomorrow afternoon, partly to be around for adjunct contract signing but mostly because a student is coming in to make a plea for an incomplete. I don't think it will help him: I crunched some numbers, and the work he's missing is less the problem than the very low grades he got on his first papers because they were insanely late. Well, he and I will talk about it.

Of course a number of students didn't show up to get their final grade sheets. All I can say is, if they complain about their grades, I won't explain anything: I'll just tell them to pick up the grade form.

I'm not submitting grades until tomorrow, however, after I've spoken with the fellow who wants the incomplete. Once I've talked to him, I'll turn in the hard copies of my grades (don't get me started on how idiotic it is that we still have to do paper copies of grades), then I'll submit the final grades on Banner, and that will be that. Then Wednesday through Friday, scheduling (and more contract signing on Wednesday, but I'll be around anyway, so no big deal on that).

I did complete the P&B business I had to take care of, which is a relief. There's one thing I need to do for the college-wide Assessment committee, but I inadvertently deleted the e-mail containing the form I need to fill out (oops), so I have to wait until the chair of that committee has a chance to send it to me again.

Meanwhile, the bruhaha over the mass firings continues. We're all deeply upset, but no concerted action plan has been developed yet--or none that I'm privy to at any rate. I can feel myself on the verge of a full-fledged rant about how education is not a product (the Victoria's Secret version of education: "This B doesn't fit me right; I want to return it for an A"), nor is it a service (I'm not a waitress, bringing you your education on a plate, for fuck's sake). Education is a process, one that requires teachers and students. Teachers are paid because we FUCKING KNOW MORE THAN THE STUDENTS DO. We're experts. We're paid for our expertise. And without us and our knowledge and expertise, our direction and guidance, the process happens--if it happens at all--in random, haphazard, inefficient ways. Yet the "rationale" for the firings was "efficiency."

OK, ok, ok, I have to stop. But it was deeply poignant to me that one of the faculty who had just lost her job was worried about whether she should attend commencement, whether the English department would be represented by enough bodies if she were not to go. She is unemployed as of today, essentially, and yet her concern was to help the department make a good showing. Another faculty member and I told her not to go. She should not dignify the proceedings with her presence, and she should not have to sit and listen to the Axe-man pontificate about how wonderful he is and all the great things he's going to do to this institution. I'll tell you what he's doing to this institution: he's brutalizing it on the path toward killing it utterly. And she's evidence of that--she is, and 65 others are as well.

The union rightly pointed out that the administration has yet to demonstrate how effective they are. We could cut a hell of a lot out of the budget just by ditching a few extraneous pieces of lumber right there--or reducing their salaries to some kind of parity with faculty salaries. Or, as Bruce suggested, all administrators should have to teach at least one course--and not an upper-level course, either, but one of the "we offer a million of them because all the students need them" basic, freshman level gut courses. We'd see a hell of a sea-change if that were to happen, I suspect.

Oh. I said I'd stop.

I'm about to sit at my desk for a few minutes and figure out what's there, sort of organize whatever stacks of shit are still in need of relatively immediate attention. Tomorrow, I hope I can do some real clean-up, ditching old documents and unneeded files, organizing my bookcase (which I've wanted to do for about the last two years), that sort of thing. It would feel very good to head into the summer as "clean" as possible.

And tomorrow is another day....

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sickening

This isn't about my teaching, or pedagogy. It's about the new administration's treatment of faculty. Bruce just got word that all of the people who were on "temporary" lines are being let go: that's five very dedicated, hard-working, smart, qualified, talented professors in the English department alone. Not only are their positions being eliminated, the decision was made TODAY--effectively preventing them from any chance of finding good work elsewhere. Two of them have been here for two years and--up until this new administration--would have had every assurance that their lines would be converted to probationary tenure track after two years. We're heart sick on their behalf, and beyond enraged. I don't know what's going to happen, what avenues of fight are open to us, how we can counteract this contemptuous, despicable behavior on the part of the powers that be, but whatever is done, I'm happy to be on the front lines. We're having an end-of-semester departmental party today, and I can only imagine what the tone of that event will be: anything but celebratory. I'm tempted to go dressed all in black. Jesus, this is just fucking awful.

If any of my students are reading this, please write letters to the administration telling them that you value being taught by full-time faculty who have a commitment to you and to the school. Adjuncts are often wonderful professors, don't get me wrong: many of them are better than some of our full-time faculty. But the nature of adjuncting is that one must cobble together a living from far too many disparate positions, which necessarily limits one's time and focus on our campus and students specifically. And yet this administration wants to get rid of more full-time faculty--all of us, I think, if they could--despite the fact that we literally cannot find qualified adjuncts. But the administration doesn't care about "qualified"--or about quality of instruction. They care about two things: their own power, and money. Period. Students, if you care about your education, complain--and get your parents to complain. Loudly. You might be listened to. Faculty are not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The T-shirt

It's become a joke with the 102 class I saw today, the fact that I should have T-shirts made to give to students who stay in my classes all the way to the end of the semester. Two possible slogans: "I Survived Professor Payne: Ask Me How" and "Prof. Payne's Class: Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt."

We had a blast today. I knew it would be a good meeting, but it was better even than I anticipated. What a great group of students they've been, and how I've enjoyed them. Lots of laughing and talking today, very lively. And smart. I got some good feedback. After years of resisting, I think I may finally be persuaded not to mark papers in red pen. I've had a dozen arguments for why I persisted in using red, but this group of students said that the color alone made them construe even my positive comments as negative. And since I do want them to think about the comments, not shy away from them as hurtful, perhaps another color is, at last, in order. Something to think about for next semester.

They were asking me if I got angry reading their papers, and I confessed yes, sometimes. (Lots of laughter about the fact that I swear over papers: several students said they wanted to check out the blog just so "hear" me cuss. I'm always tempted to let it all hang out when they ask me about that: "Do you swear? Really?" "Fuck yes. Like a fucking sailor.") But then I told them that we--well, many of us anyway--genuinely are deeply invested in their success and find it painful when they don't make the progress we hope for. I told them I get angry about the students who don't give a shit, but I'm frustrated and pained by the ones who are not doing the kind of work I want them to.

And then it was my turn to be surprised: they were genuinely upset that they might have disappointed me. Not deeply upset, I don't think--despite one young man's jokes about it, I don't honestly believe they're going to go home and cry over it--but still, they felt more sting from my disappointment and frustration than I thought they would. Many of them suggested that I say something about that investment in their success on the first day ("If I'd known, I'd have tried harder from the beginning"), but I don't think it would have the same effect. I think on the first day, it would sound like the kind of manipulative, touchy-feely BS young people are far too used to hearing from adults of all stripes. But maybe somewhere along the middle, once students have started to get to know me, it might have some effect.

It is true, too: it's not bullshit--though there is something slightly manipulative about strategizing when I might tell them how it feels from this end. Over the years, I have gradually learned to detach more from the students who manifestly don't care: God, how I used to agonize over them, trying everything I could think of to drag them into caring, but that effort was a drain on my energy for no results, so I've worked hard to let it go. But the ones that demonstrate even a modicum of caring, of attempt to improve? Yes, I am deeply and emotionally involved in their success. Which is why I do this instead of working at the Met.

**Sigh.**

The high of today's interaction with that group of students is starting to subside (and is followed by some sadness, as I realize I'm going to miss them). I have finished grading and number crunching for 229 and now need to turn my attention to tomorrow's end-of-day 102. I'm taking a petite brain break: even as I'm writing this, the back of my mind is figuring out a plan of attack. The only complicating factor for that batch of students is that I won't have their final self-evaluations until I see them tomorrow. Consequently, I need to get everything as far along as I can, so all I have to do is plug in that last number and do the final calculation--which means I need to have a copy for my own records, in addition to what I give the students. Hmmmm. Still, it's looking like I can still stay on top of everything heading into the weekend.

However, if this "petite" break goes on much longer, I'll get too tired and hungry to work productively, so off I go.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"All over but the shouting"

William loves that expression. I have no idea when or where I first heard it, but it's particularly apt at this time of semester. Papers are submitted--a couple electronically, by students who hit a personal hardship (in the hospital, mother-in-law in the hospital--not bullshit excuses either, but legit). One paper is on its way as I sit here: the student lost the flash drive and is having to rewrite the paper from scratch (again, not BS: I believe him). One student is taking an incomplete, so I'll be getting missing assignments from her over the next few weeks--and I confidently expect she'll get an A at the end of it all.

I've also offered an incomplete to the student whose mother-in-law is in the hospital: she's extremely hard-working and capable (not all adult students are), but this has been an ongoing problem for her--so much so that she didn't turn in the revision of her second paper, hence the offer of the incomplete. She may not take me up on it, figuring she'd rather just be done with the class, which I'd understand, but I hope she does. If she'd had more time to work with me, she'd have been certain to get a B+ if not better. I'm not sure where her grade is ending up right now, but it's not that high--may not even be a B, and anything less would be criminal for her.

But we'll see on all that.

I had a great wrap-up with the students in Native American lit, talking first about the class but then just about life choices in general. Fun. Then today's 102, pthttttt. The guy who is rewriting his paper met me outside and said he didn't think it was fair to take advantage of peer review when he had a chance to revise and no one else would, so he went off to finish the paper. Four students were in the room when I walked in the door; one immediately presented a withdrawal slip. None of the other three wanted to do peer review--and indeed, one had plagiarized his proposal and sent an e-mail yesterday asking if he could withdraw: no, I said, do your best on the paper and take whatever comes. I think he knows he's going to fail, so I'm not surprised he didn't want peer review. Among the missing, the woman whose mother-in-law is ill. One student showed up about half an hour late, another 45 minutes late.

Based on that level of enthusiasm, I decided I won't do an end-of-semester wrap-up with them on Thursday. I'll just have them come to my office with their final self-evaluations: I'll add that last assignment to their grade sheets on the spot, do a quick number crunch, and give them the final grade sheets to take home, along with their knowledge of their final grade. Easy enough to do, since I don't have to mark anything.

In fact, only one student--in Native American Lit--asked for comments, so that's a total of four. Fine by me. I've already read three of the Native American Lit final papers: I'm running a quick plagiarism check on one, but I'm pretty sure it's legit; it's just all over the map, and sometimes a pastiche like that is an indication of plagiarism. But I can easily get everything read and graded tomorrow, grade sheets ready to go, and possibly even get a start on the papers for the Monday classes.

I'm so on top of all this it's almost frightening: what am I forgetting? It must be something huge.

I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's semester wrap-up with that section of 102. They're a lot of fun, a larger and more lively group, so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say. More scheduling fun with Bruce in the morning, some assessment committee work, class, and grading. And I keep marching along.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Getting there

Today, as students did their final paper peer review/fix sessions, I was creating final grade sheets and recording what I've got and crunching numbers, using my laptop. Of course, I couldn't e-mail anything to myself, as ours is not a wireless campus (only in the library and one or two other buildings), but that's OK. I'll try to remember to send myself the forms tomorrow when I get home, assuming I'll be doing more of the same in my class sessions tomorrow.

It was interesting to see who was willing to really dig into the opportunity to continue working on their papers. As I said to one student, in my experience, the ones who take advantage of the full time period are generally either the worst students (in a panic, knowing they've got one last shot to pass) or the best students (who are striving still to learn and improve). I did notice, today, that two of the students who should have been in a flat-out panic were not. Ah well.

Out of 22 papers, three students asked for comments. That's a relief (I'm always afraid that suddenly more will take me up on the offer). Tomorrow I'll get another thirteen papers: we'll see how many of those want comments. I suspect a few more--especially from the Native American Lit class--but I don't think it will be a lot, in any event.

My "break" today I spent in part looking at year-end evaluations from my mentees: I have a few questions to ask P&B tomorrow, but I will need to write the P&B evaluation statements for those at some point soon, too. Yuck. It's one of those niggly little chores that makes the end of semester bumpier and more prolonged than I would like. I'd be ecstatic if I can get all my work done for all my classes early enough that I can get the P&B work done on Monday, at the closing bell of the semester. Then my post-semester duties will be reduced to a day of interviews with P&B, adjunct contract signing, and scheduling (full time faculty schedules for spring 2012), all next week, including Friday, right up to time for my ride. But if I can get everything done and out of my hair next week, I'll have a week and a half to decompress, go through the typical post-semester blues)--and work on turning the Portuguese publication paper into a talk--before I head off to Lisboa.

So, push, push, push is the name of the game.

But it doesn't feel like a big, bad push. Right at the moment, it feels much more under control than in semesters past. Partly because I'm not marking things but largely--as Paul and I were discussing the other day--simply because so many students have disappeared that I'm down to low numbers across the board. That makes things much more civilized.

By the way, I was grumpy about it, but I did go to the Assessment colloquium on Friday (I let myself sleep in, so got there late, but I don't seem to have missed a lot). I'm glad I went: I got some ideas for approaches I might try next semester, especially in terms of methods for students to evaluate their writing--and their overall progress in the course. (The colloquium leader made a distinction between "evaluate" and "assess," but it feels like an artificial distinction to me. In "assessment-speak," that wonderful, artificial language that I'm learning with great resistance, "evaluate" implies a judgment and termination of process, whereas "assess" implies a continual building on strengths with no terminal point. I make note of the important differentiation in attitude without necessarily adjusting my use of language.) The event reinforced for me--again--that it is beneficial to all if I can turn more responsibility for learning over to the students. So, now the question is, will I actually be able to find a way to make the adjustments I want to make within the limited amount of time I have in a semester? Stay tuned for more exciting developments.

But first, let's get out of this semester....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

brief

I'm feeling hemi-demi-semi-cranky because I am supposed to come to campus tomorrow for an Assessment colloquium. I've already said I'll be there--and I've been telling myself that it's OK if I get there late (the wretched thing is supposed to start at 8 a.m., for fuck's sake)--so I am in a bit of a tussle with myself over the desire to bail. I even pushed my riding lesson later in the day to accommodate my being at the colloquium through to the bitter end, but really and truly, I just don't want to go. Ever see a toddler collapsing at the knees to keep from walking where he or she doesn't want to go, being pulled along by the parent, being lifted to his or her feet and collapsing, over and over? That's what's going on inside my mind.

Classes today were relatively disastrous. No one was ready to talk about anything. No energy, not even the energy that arises from panic. Contrast yesterday's brilliant and lively class. Ugh. Hard to end a week on this note.

On a better note, scheduling summer adjuncts went fine: now we wait for people to say "no" to what we've offered and for classes to get canceled, at which point we return to the drawing board. Everyone has been saying, "Wait until fall. Fall is a train-wreck." Oh, goody.

I have no appointments for my evening office hour today, so I'm going to fold my tents and head off. I've got a bag of work to take home over the weekend, but who knows how much, if any, I'll actually do. But soon it will all be over--including the shouting, I fondly hope.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mud

That's what my brains seem to be made of. I've actually had a relatively good, productive day today, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that one of those "Oh shit!" moments is sure to happen soon. I spent a lot of today working with Bruce on the summer schedules, which is a monster: everyone wants classes in the same sessions and at the same times, and there just aren't that many classes. Many of the ones we're assigning may not get sufficient enrollment to run. Bruce and I are going to put in another hour or so tomorrow, missing the general faculty meeting called by the president: I've never been to one and had intended to go, just to keep an eye on this guy to see what he's up to, but Bruce said it was nothing new--and we truly do have to get those schedules done. So, keeping the real priorities in order--that our students need qualified faculty teaching their classes and our qualified faculty need to be given schedules that work--decision made.

Today's 102 was pretty fun, actually. They've relaxed a lot with me, mostly because of a few specific students who were confident enough to test my reactions and find out for everyone that I'm capable of laughing and joking around with them--but also partly because it's the end of semester and they're so stressed and tired they're getting daffy. Me too, quite honestly. But it was fun, and we had a great conversation about the intro and Le Guin's essay about the book--and they aired some of their questions and worries about their papers. Monday they'll help each other with their papers, making hand corrections before they turn them in. Wednesday we'll do the semester wrap-up and they'll turn in their end-of-semester self-evaluations. Then the final Monday they'll come to my office (I hope) to pick up their final grade sheets. And that's it. I'll do essentially the same with the Monday/Thursday class (just substitute "Thursday" for "Wednesday" in what I wrote above). And I did take a minute today to figure out what to do with the T/Th 102: there are only 8 students in that class, so if I organize things properly, I can get their final papers read and their grade sheets done before I see them that final Thursday, all except their self-evaluations, which I can do on the fly at that last moment. That will take care of that. I'm still thinking how to handle the Native American Lit students: I talked to them about it, but I didn't write down what I said and now I've forgotten. I think I told them that we'd do the end-of-semester review on Tuesday, when their final papers are due, and that I'd have grade sheets for them on Thursday. I'll ask them tomorrow.

I guess I feel compelled to write all that here in the blog, not because I think it will be of interest to you, my faithful readers, but because writing it down I'm more likely to remember what I've decided.

Speaking of such decisions: I don't think I mentioned this yesterday, but I did write up a version of the plagiarism letter for the student who plagiarized his proposal. I gave it to him to read before class. Then, after I worked with a few students on proposals, I talked to him, just to be sure he understood. He did. He worked with his group on trying to come up with a thesis and ideas for his paper--and he knows he has to write the paper without help from me. The one thing I changed my mind about was I didn't try to scare him: my approach was very friendly and matter-of-fact, along the lines of, "OK, this is what you decided to do, so this is what happens now." We'll see what happens next. In today's 102, a student showed up who had turned in his proposal on time initially but who didn't bother to find out if it had passed (it hadn't) and who returned to class today as if he could continue on. I pulled him out and said, "Well, you needed to have the proposal approved by Monday, and it wasn't, so you've failed the class." Shrug.
I continued, "So, there's no need for you to hang around: you might as well go work on one of your other classes." "Can I withdraw?" "No, sorry, it's too late." Shrug, "OK," he said. And schlumpf, schlumpf, schlumpf, off he went. Sei gesund.

I've just chipped through the last drangling bits of homework for two of the four classes: I'll finish the rest tomorrow or (for the M/W 102) on Monday. I did my book order for fall (and made a note to remind myself to send off the stuff to the print center for photocopying). I sent out some e-mails, working to nail down some committee stuff. And I need to proofread my piece for the Portuguese publication coinciding with the conference presentation and respond to my friend with any corrections. Then I'm done for the day.

Mud pie anyone?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

clunking along

I woke up without the alarm at 6:24 this morning, but I allowed myself to snuggle back down and get more sleep. I'd been running at a serious deficit for a couple of nights (couldn't make myself get to bed and to sleep), but even so, the extra snooze time may have been a mistake. I felt very peaceful coming in to campus--and then remembered I was supposed to meet not one but two students and that the pile of work on my desk actually will require a little more brain than I had allowed myself to believe. By the time I was sitting in P&B, I felt a sort of cranky, petulant fog closing in, which led to my feeling like I needed to go home and get back into bed. A little coffee on my way to class helped, and the Native American Lit students--all five of them--were, as usual, such a treat to talk with that I felt much better. In the late day 102, it took the whole period to get the last two proposals approved--from students who are actually quite smart--so we didn't talk about the novel or the final two essays, but a couple of them were doing great work. One student in particular--whose proposal was approved last week, first try--was reworking her ideas, digging in to what she wants to do, and she's heading into territory that is much more interesting and complex than her original proposal. I told her to type up her new introductory paragraph for me: once I see it, I'll give her a higher grade on her proposal, as a revision.

Mostly I hope I can take a little time tomorrow to seriously think about how next week will work. I want to be sure I have a wrap-up day with all the classes, but that means that my T/Th students won't be getting the break-down of their grades on their last day. The mental scramble I'm going through is probably not worth trying to explain, but it arises because I essentially have one "extra" day with the M/W students. Well, whatever. It's not that hard to figure out, I just need to shut up all the other clamoring voices in my head for about five minutes, if that.

But those voices are yelping quite loudly. I did finish my year-end evaluation (about five minutes ago), and I'm neatly organizing my "mentee" evaluations in a folder: at some point I need to read them over and provide the P&B seals of approval (I think it's all boilerplated, but I don't remember). I could barely think in P&B today--resistance, I think, to still having to think at all.

There's a small stack of miscellaneous other bits on my desk that I need to sort through as well, just so I know what's there. Book order form for fall, I know (and I need to remember to send the 102 reader pages over to Print Services to get the copies made), some scheduling stuff: I'm not sure what else. And tomorrow, apart from my class, I'll be in with Bruce, creating summer schedules. But I know he won't be here late, so once he leaves in the afternoon, I'm hoping I can sift through stuff, get my grade forms set up, that sort of feet clearing.

And tonight, even though I'm a little tired and creaky (I don't know why for either one), I intend to eat my "brown-bag" dinner and go to dance class. And we all must remember that tomorrow is, after all, another day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sighing

I feel like it sounds as if I'm gasping for air, but all the heavy sighing is just a method of stress management. Paul, William and I were laughing at ourselves a couple of semesters ago, as within a few short moments each of us in turn heaved a heavy sigh and said, "Ohhhh-kay." A physical manifestation of a metaphoric girding of loins--and the brain's desire for more oxygen so it can continue to operate.

Both classes went fine today. I could have kept the first bunch after I finished approving various proposals so we could finish talking about the novel, but I let them go early. Possibly a mistake, but oh well. They were supposed to have finished the novel last week; this week we're supposed to talk about Le Guin's introduction to it, along with her essay "Is Gender Necessary? (Redux)"--both of which are tremendously helpful to students (those who can read with college-level sophistication anyway). Most of the students in the morning class hadn't read this week's readings, so I turned them loose to do that for Thursday. I was happier with how the later class worked: for one thing, they actually were talking about the novel in their groups (not reading individually and working on reading journals). Only one young woman struggled with her thesis. I let her keep working while the rest of us talked about the end of the book--and actually, she chose to participate in the discussion, which was helpful I'm sure. I let everyone else go a few minutes early and got her to an approved proposal--just barely, but it's good enough that she can go forward. They're a nice bunch, and it's the class with the most students remaining (fifteen: each of my other 102s has eight students left). When the young woman was working on revising her thesis, I asked her how she was doing and she pointed at her group mates (and friends) and said, pitifully, "They're not helping." Everyone in the class broke up--including her.

My one real concern right now is about tomorrow's class: one student plagiarized his proposal and is saying that he just used the internet sources "for help." I've told him we need to talk, but the only time he's "able" to come is immediately before our class meets. I don't think he realizes how deep the shit is that he's in. I'm going to scare the hell out of him if I can, but I've decided I'll give him a zero for the proposal yet let him write the paper--just with no help or feedback from me. Since I know he plagiarized because he doesn't understand what the hell is going on, that means his final paper will probably fail, and I'll let him know that his chances of passing are not good. (I need to look at his grades so far, too: it may be that even the zero for the proposal will put passing out of mathematical possibility for him.) I can understand the panic that leads to plagiarism (his first proposal attempt was honestly his own; it was only when that failed that he chose to cheat): what pisses me off is the cavalier--or weaselly--attitude. (Can a weasel be cavalier? I'm suddenly thinking of "cavalier" as implying more insouciance than disdain, indifference, negligence--and I've got a mental picture of a weasel dressed up as D'Artagnan....)

Anyway, describe it how you will, the 'tude makes me grit my teeth to hold on to my temper. I'm considering whether to write something up to give him tomorrow. I wish now that when he e-mailed the plagiarized proposal, instead of saying, "You're guilty of plagiarism: we need to talk," that I'd just said "we need to talk"--or sent him the Plagiarism Letter in reply. Ah well. We'll see how things go tomorrow.

Before I have to deal with that student tomorrow, I have one more essay to mark for the Native American Lit students--and one I'm going to run through Plagiarism Detector tonight when I get home. It may legitimately be the student's work, but there are just enough red flags for me to check, plus it's that time of semester when I get more cautious. It's not a great paper anyway: the kid doesn't know what "personification" means and is confusing it with the effect of not using an article before a common noun (if there's a specific term for that, I'd love to know what it is); he's also dragging in the idea of storytelling, which is a completely different idea (and not in the poems he's ostensibly analyzing); he uses a critical essay about Mary Oliver to support what he's saying about Native American poet Peter Blue Cloud; and he spends most of the paper blathering about Native American poetry in general instead of in specific, focused analysis of any poem or poems. Plus he's missed class seven times (and registered late, so really nine times)--and my attendance policy stipulates that six mandates withdrawal or failure. I'm meeting with him tomorrow: if the class were larger, I wouldn't hesitate to tell him to withdraw, and even as is, I think I'll probably recommend that he take that option. He's smart enough, too, but kind of a train wreck in terms of responsibility. I could go on about him but enh, not worth it.

In other business, I felt smug yesterday that I had almost finished my Year-End Evaluation (an administrative hoop we have to jump through every second year), was sure I'd get it done today--and I forgot to e-mail the file to myself, so I couldn't work on it. Shit. But in the good news department, I thought I had a meeting tomorrow morning, but it's next week: it's like a gift, winning a tiny daytime lotto, getting an unexpected hour and a half in which to get things done. Right at the moment I feel worryingly on top of things (I must be forgetting something), but I know next week all hell is going to break loose. Not only will I be in the mad crunch of paper grading and final number crunching, but also, wearing my P&B hat, I'll have to write reports on other people's Year-End Evaluations, finish scheduling summer classes with Bruce, and get all this semester's work nailed down so my feet are clear when I head into post-semester madness (interviewing, adjunct contract signing, scheduling for spring 2012, prepping my paper for the Lisbon conference).

Like I said, throw your hands in the air and scream!